Amid a ‘Massive Victory’ PPPC Vows to Work in Every Local Authority Area

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COMMENTARY By Dr Tara Singh

The PPPC proclaims, “it is a massive victory,” “it is a landslide,” in response to the results of LGE 2023 of June 12, 2023, after months of haggling by the APNU over the integrity of the voters list and the move by the PPPC to restore certain constituency boundaries to their 2016 state. The fear of electoral rigging had evaporated as the previous set of rogue officials had been removed from GECOM and replaced with professionals. LGE 2023 was declared free and fair by election observers. The PPPC won 83.75% (or 67 of the 80) of the Local Authority Areas (LAAs), and 74.3% (or 906 of the 1220) of the LAAs seats.

The Opposition Parliamentary party, APNU, also claims victory in the apparent belief that it warded off a spirited challenge by the governing PPPC to shake up their strongholds in Georgetown, New Amsterdam, and Linden. Their perception of a win or a victory is linked to a downgrade of their party’s objective(s) for LGE 2023. It is hard to believe that they did not want to secure a majority of LAAs at LGE 2023. They fought hard to win LGE 2016 because they saw it also as a referendum on their governance. Their desire to win LGE 2018 became stronger when they changed certain constituency boundaries to make these more favorable to their party. Despite that, the PPPC won 65% of LAAs in 2018. Why did APNU focus heavily on protecting their 3 major strongholds of Georgetown, New Amsterdam, and Linden? However, the interpretation or perception, APNU incurred heavy losses at LGE 2023. Their victory claim is an illusion that somehow gives them comfort.
Unlike the APNU, the PPPC wanted to win LGE 2023 very convincingly.

The PPPC had infused LGE 2023 with a vibrancy unparalleled in Guyana’s history. Guided by their unifying philosophy of ‘One Guyana’ (founded upon core principles of diversity, inclusion, fairness, and rejection of racism) which has become the cornerstone for both central and local governments, the PPPC believes that this approach has given impetus to their vision of progress, development, and prosperity for all Guyanese.

In the pursuit of these principles, the PPPC has utilized their new governance model (taking government to the people) and extolled their numerous accomplishments, noting that they have fulfilled all their 2020 election campaign promises. And for each LAA, the PPPC created a list of promises to which they asked residents to hold them accountable. In addition, their mantra of diversity, inclusion, and fairness resonated well with citizens. The PPPC felt that their approach has helped to allay fears of ethnic insecurity and lead to the development of trust among many voters who had traditionally supported and voted for APNU.

The PPPC’s “red wave” symbolism dominated the campaign trail, and this had created a measure of exaggerated expectations among some party supporters who had expected stronger results, for example, in the APNU stronghold of Linden. However, noting that it is extremely hard to make inroad into an opposition’s party base, and in a context of ethnic insecurity, the PPPC leadership neutralized their supporters’ expectations and claimed instead that they are satisfied with the results. In Linden, the PPPC increased their proportion of total valid votes from 7.8% (or 402) in 2018 to 23.5% (or 2,464) in 2023, while APNU increased their proportion from 70.3% (or 3,606) in 2028 to 76.5% (or 8002) in 2023. The relative gain of the PPPC is significant and the party believes that by receiving 6 times more votes in 2023 than in 2018, in addition to having 2 PR seats on the Linden City Council, they have now positioned themselves to expand their reach in Linden.

In Georgetown, the PPPC did exceedingly well; they received 4 more seats (2 constituency and 2 PR) than they had in LGE 2018. The PPPC now has 11 seats at the City Council (5 constituency and 6 PR). The PPPC’s proportion of total votes in Georgetown increased from 24.8% (or 7,050) to 36.7% (or 12,553) compared with a decline in proportion for APNU from 63.7% (or 18,127) in 2018 to 60.9% (or 20,839) in 2023. In New Amsterdam, the PPPC doubled their number of seats to 6 (3 constituency and 3 PR) in the 14-member City Council. The PPPC plans to build upon these successes.

Since the decline of the AFC, critics have written off the role of third parties at the central government level. Given the close general election results between the two major parties, PPPC and APNU, a fashionable theory that third party could serve as a power broker has gained some currency. Third parties contesting elections want to become power brokers and not to win a majority of seats.

The apparent rise of several small parties (over 22) at LGE 2023 might suggest renewed hope in the viability of third parties as a political force. They won 38 seats in region 3. They mustered 8,943 votes (or 4.8%) nationally, compared with 2,995 votes in 2018. Whether this modest success at the local level would translate into a movement at the national level for general and regional elections in 2025 is doubtful. First, all the 10 new groups that won seats are localized (constituency-based), except for the Movement for Unity and Democracy (MUD). Second, my research also shows that in region 3 they were ‘surrogates’ for APNU.
The VTR in 2018 was 35%. In 2023 it is not easy to calculate the national VTR because there were 279 “No Contest” constituencies. The effect of including them with a value of “0” would distort the VTR by rendering it lower than the true situation. To obtain a crude estimate of the national voter turn-out rate, I selected LAAs that had contests in all their constituencies and then computed the average VTR of the LAAs to be 32.4%.

Political parties must work to increase VTR and make LAAs attractive (payment to councilors, offer training, giving them greater authority, etc.) to secure councilors’ commitment. The PPPC has made it pellucid that notwithstanding the LGE 2023 results, they would continue to work to improve every LAA in the country. Already the PPPC has been visiting LAAs (irrespective if they were won by APNU or PPPC) and assuring residents that they are committed to fulfilling their campaign promises. They will continue with their neighborhood revitalization programs, job creation, small business grants, scholarship grants, establishment of regional hospitals, Amerindian affairs, housing development, potable water distribution, among other projects. The PPPC’s ‘One Guyana’ philosophy would continue to guide policy making and implementation.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the position or policy of the THE WEST INDIAN.